Pastor/Lay friendships

In my 35+ years of ministry I’ve had many good friends who weren’t clergy. In fact, while I’ve had lots of good friends who are pastors, most of my best friends (golfing, fishing buddies) have been laymen. One thing that has helped that relationship is that they thought of me as a friend and not as a pastor. That isn’t to say we never interacted at that level, but there was a sense of mutuality about it.

However, I’ve known some good men with whom I couldn’t have that level of friendship because they could never forget that I was a pastor. We could be right in the middle of laughing about something and they’d say, “I can’t believe a pastor would think that’s funny.” When I hear something like that I reevaluate my relationship with that person. They aren’t ready to be a real “friend” to the pastor. I adjust things so I can treat them as a person in need of a pastor. I guess you’d say I stop being “one of the guys” in a group of Christian friends and move back to the pastor position so I can minister to them the best I am able.

In fact, I think wanting to “be friends” with “the pastor” is almost self defeating.  If someone wants to be friends with me, a person with whom they have something in common (like fishing for bass or hiking) that’s one thing.  If they want to be friends with “the pastor” well, that carries with it, at least in my way of thinking, considerable baggage.  After all, I don’t think to myself, “I’d like to be friends with ‘the doctor’ or with ‘the policeman.'”  Rather, I view them as people and not vocations.

A pastor appreciating fine lay people

A major project at our church has been the replacing of old, inadequate concrete sidewalks with brick paving. It is actually a bigger project than just sidewalks, as we have a very nice patio type covering in the front of the church, and the brick paving has been put down underneath that awning, creating some very usable space for outdoor activities: everything from overflow space at church dinners to VBS activities to church BBQ’s. We’re even thinking of having some outdoor Sunday evening services.

Actually, this blog entry isn’t as much about that as it is about the wonderful folks I pastor. We have had a number of people who gave up their Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving and then the following Friday and Saturday again this week to labor on this project. As a pastor, I must say that this is about as encouraging a thing as can be imagined. There’s a lot of grumbling these days about “lack of commitment” by church people. I’m seeing none of it. These good folks financially support the church and go above and beyond the call of duty in doing it. Then, they give up their days off and vacation days to come and work sun up to sun down to make the church building into a nicer place to worship. I am pleased with and humbled by such generosity.

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